How To Setup Google Analytics
Cookies are pieces of data collected by websites with information on the session, as well as all interactions as part of that session, and on the user, linking multiple sessions from the same user together. The information is stored on a users’ computer by the browser and sent to Google’s servers.
There are two kinds of cookies – temporary cookies which expire after each session and provide that detail on session bases, and persistent cookies which remain on the hard drive until erased and link multiple sessions to one user. Cookies are browser and device-based.
The tracking code is executed every time a page loads, and this is when the cookie is fired. The page loading in the browser is what triggers the cookie to track the page view and associated session and user information.
The tracking code that triggers the cookies is implemented on the website and when the page loads and the cookie fires, the information on the session (the temporary cookie) and users (the persistent cookie) sends the information back to Google’s servers to be processed for the relevant account.
If a user has visited this website before, and a persistent cookie is already in place, it will recognize the user as a returning visitor and update the persistent cookie with the relevant user information.
As the code works on page load, it is very important that the code is installed on every page of the website, by a web developer or similar, in order to gather data from every page visit and hits on each page in a session.
In this example, the user came to the website and visited four pages, but the third page did not have the tracking code in place. It would look to Google Analytics as if the user only visited three pages and would look like they exited and then re-entered the website during their session between the second and third page.
Correct installation of the tracking code is vital, therefore, for accurate tracking and data integrity.
The set-up of the account also contributes to this, and so both are important to ensure that data can be trusted.
There are many benefits to using Google Analytics.
The main ones to businesses are that is it free and easy to install, with a user-friendly interface, that provides extensive, valuable insight into web behaviour.
Google Analytics also has its limitations.
The data is not processed and reported in real-time, and the free version is limited to 5 million hits per month.
There is also limited customization available to businesses, reports default to last-click attribution, and the data is not always 100% accurate.
To set up a Google Analytics, you need to have a Google account. You then need to:
1. Login to Google Analytics and select Create a new account.
2. Enter the basic account and property details and click Get Tracking ID.
There are two main ways to install the Google Analytics code:
1. The first is to install the code directly onto the website using Google’s guidelines – this is usually done by a developer, but many content management systems have settings that allow the tracking code number to be entered into the CMS and the code is automatically applied to the website.
Google Tag Manager (GTM) is the recommended method of installation of Google Analytics code. It is a free tool provided by Google that allows marketers to add and update website tags (including Google Analytics) without needing to update website code. To use it, the Google Analytics code needs to be installed on the website, and after this, all other tags and codes can be implemented through GTM without the need to update the website code again or without needing to use developers.
It allows better control of marketing tags for marketers and usually speeds up implementation and testing as well.
Once installed, you should test that the Google Analytics code is installed correctly and that the data is tracking. There are a number of ways to do this, two of which are to check the code directly on the web pages, or you can test the tracking with Google Tag Assist.
To check the code directly on the web pages, you can view source code and search for the Google Analytics tracking number. This will show you where the code is placed and can be checked against the guidelines provided by Google.
Google Tag Assist is a free browser extension provided by Google and checks all Google tags on a web page. When the page loads, details are provided in Google Tag Assist about the tags detected and status of each tag. If there are issues with implementation, these are flagged within the tool.
Following set-up of the account, all settings should be checked. There are three levels within settings – Account, Property and View – and each item within this should be set-up and checked to make sure they are correct, ensuring data accuracy.
To access these settings, click Admin or the cog-wheel in the bottom left of the screen.
The Account is the highest level and access point for analytics. Within this are the properties you want to track. There can be many properties within one account – usually a website or app would have it’s own property so a business with multiple websites could have one account, with a property for each website. The tracking code is generated at property level.
Within the property, a defined view needs to be set up, which will contain the reports. A property can have more than one view – usually there should be a raw view, with unfiltered data, as well as a filtered view for main reports. There can be separate views for different areas of your business, depending on your unique needs.
To complete set-up, there are some additional settings and navigational items which should be customized to ensure the data is accurate, as well as making reporting and analyzing easier for anyone using the analytics account. These include filters, dashboards, annotations and shortcuts.
Filters are used to enhance reporting accuracy. They can be used to:
- Remove unwanted traffic – such as traffic from within your own organization or from spam sources
- Reclassify traffic – such as overwriting session information like source
- Segment traffic to isolate tracking – such as tracking only traffic to one subdomain.
Filters should be applied to all of your main tracking profiles – this will help to ensure data integrity.
Examples of standard filters could include:
- Eliminating spam traffic and ensuring you are only tracking relevant traffic to your website
- Eliminating traffic to your website from internal stakeholders such as your own business and your marketing and development agencies.
It would also be recommended to keep one raw view with all unfiltered reports.
- Dashboards are like overview reports and provide a snapshot of the top statistics you might need, like visitor information and conversions.
- They can be private – accessed only through your login, or shared.
- Dashboard elements and settings can also be shared via links to anyone who can then set up the same dashboard, but sharing a link to your dashboard does not share the data from your account.
- Dashboards are set up per view and can be very specific to your view and business needs.
- Each dashboard is restricted to 12 elements and these can link to the main reports.
- They are easily accessed in the navigation or can be set up to be emailed to stakeholders at specified times of the day, week or month.
- Annotations are notes that you can add to the reporting timeline with commentary.=
- They can be private – accessed only through your login, or shared so that anyone with access to that view can see them as well.
- They are mostly used to note anomalies in data and timelines when notable activity, such as offline campaigns take place that might impact online activity or changes and updates are made to a website.
- They are very useful when comparing data and timelines as they can help analyze changes in results.
Shortcuts are very useful to provide easy access to often-used reports. They can be easily set up by clicking Save at the top of any report you want to shortcut, and are then accessed through Saved Reports in the main navigation.
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